Wednesday, 29 September 2021

President Zoran Milanović: "We're Nearing 'Red' Zone With Regard to Zagreb's Reconstruction"

ZAGREB, 29 Sept, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that as far as Zagreb's post-quake reconstruction was concerned, the processes "are already entering the red zone", warning that the financial situation in Zagreb is not good because the previous city administration brought it to the edge of the abyss.

"If we are talking about Zagreb's reconstruction we are already entering the red. The financial situation in the City of Zagreb, as far as I have heard, is not good and not because of its current authorities but its previous administration. They invoiced or tried to invoice and give away anything possible over the past years. And in the end, we all know how that ended - the other option won and it is barely making ends meet," said Milanović.

Asked about Zagreb's reconstruction following the 2020 earthquake, Milanović said that it was important for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to dedicate attention to the issue of Zagreb's finances.

"There is no room for bartering and agreements. The City of Zagreb cannot incur debts above certain levels and the previous authorities have brought it to the edge of the abyss," said Milanović.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Zagreb Mayor Says Legislative Framework for Reconstruction Inadequate

ZAGREB, 31 Aug, 2021 - Commenting on the situation with post-earthquake reconstruction, Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević repeated on Tuesday that the current law on post-earthquake reconstruction was inadequate and he welcomed plans to amend it.

Tomašević said that it was up to the government to submit a new bill to the parliament and that his We Can! party would try to help shape it through its deputies in the national parliament.

The mayor warned that property-rights relations, properties that had not been legalised and discrepancies between data in land books and those in cadastral maps constituted a major problem.

He said that he would support proposals that the state fully finance the reconstruction process in order to help expedite procedures related to property-rights relations, noting that those relations would not be as important without the co-financing model, and one could embark on "block by block" reconstruction.

Tomašević said that a call for applications for the lease of city-owned flats to citizens whose properties were damaged in the March 2020 earthquake and who were accommodated in a hostel and in housing containers would be published very soon.

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Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Opposition MP Doesn't Believe There'll Be Anything of Zagreb Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 24 Aug, 2021 - Member of Parliament Anka Mrak-Taritaš on Tuesday said that it seems there won't be anything of Zagreb's reconstruction following the earthquake that hit the city 17 months ago and that the lack of goodwill for reconstruction is "the greatest shame of Andrej Plenković's government." 

Seventeen months after the earthquake, there is still nothing regarding Zagreb's reconstruction. There is no longer even any meetings between the government and City authorities. Damir Vanđelić, the director of the Fund for Reconstruction and Economy Minister Darko Horvat have even stopped debating in the media about who is more at fault for that," Mrak-Taritaš told a press conference on Tuesday.

As an example of what could have been done in that time, she recalled that the Empire State Building with its 102 floors was built in sixteen months' time, "and without disrupting traffic."

MP Mrak-Tartiaš warned that eight months had passed since money from the EU Solidarity Fund was paid into the government's account and "that Croatia is at risk of being the first member state to not spend that money within the set deadline and that the country might be compelled to repay it to the EU budget, while at the same time the government is using alibis why things are not being done, from the law to the programme of measures and the fund." 

The sole GLAS lawmaker believes that "it is absolutely certain now" that there won't be anything of Zagreb's reconstruction as that "requires the know-how, good management and will, yet there is none of that." She concluded that the fact that there is no will is the Plenković's government's greatest shame and sin of not doing anything."

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Monday, 19 April 2021

Different Zagreb Earthquake Reconstruction Rules for New Property Owners

April the 19th, 2021 - There are different rules for those who are classed as new owners of property in the capital when it comes to Zagreb earthquake reconstruction, and if you fall into that category and decide to sell your apartment, you could be hit with quite significant costs.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, there are three conditions for co-financing post-earthquake reconstruction in Zagreb - ownership, residence and whether or not the property is the place you actually live in, which will be proven through neighbours and who bills are addressed to if necessary. According to the State Secretary at the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State, Zeljko Uhlir, those who meet those conditions are to participate in the Zagreb earthquake reconstruction costs of their own properties in the amount of 20 percent. For others, the amount is a significantly higher 50 percent.

The same goes for owners of different types of property: for the first ''section'' which has been mentioned above, they participate with 20 percent, for the others the participation amount stands at 50 percent, but if someone sold their apartment, then the new owner must participate with 50 percent of the renovation costs, and in the case that someone sells their renovated apartment, they will need to return the invested funds or the costs and those associated with it will be passed on to the new owner.

What, in turn, is the difference between Zagreb earthquake reconstruction done yourself and renovation done through the appropriate fund? Can co-owners who don't want that sort of reconstruction be forced to accept it, and how will all of this be affected by the lack of workers, engineers and the rise in price of construction materials? These are all very pressing questions which obviously demand clear answers.

Then there is the question of how non-detached buildings will be dealt with? There are also questions surrounding older owners who aren't accustomed to using the internet and the whole procedure might become too complicated for them to understand. In the framework of the dialogue that has been going on for a long time now, among experts on the topic of reconstruction of buildings after the earthquake, in addition to the above questions, there are a number of those to which representatives of the profession are still looking for answers.

However, as confirmed by a recently held presentation on the basics of Zagreb earthquake reconstruction for members of the Chamber Association of Property, what there is no doubt about is that the renovation process will affect the capital's real estate market in the long run.

It will significantly affect the markets, but mostly people's lives, and therefore it should be approached in an organised manner at all levels. That was the central message of Dubravko Ranilovic.

According to Uhlir, only in the Zagreb area will the rehabilitation of buildings cost as much as the construction of motorways. The primary goal, he claims, is to ensure mechanical resistance and stability with the aim of protecting human health and life, while the secondary point is the urban renewal of the City of Zagreb and its surroundings, and the regeneration of the overall area. Recalling the rule that the EU doesn't provide funds for private property - the owners, in fact, must take care of it themselves, according to him it is malicious to make accusations and lie blame with the owners of old buildings when it comes to maintenance as most were not designed or built to withstand seismic loads, and therefore their restoration is extremely a complex job in which the profession must play a major role.

On the other hand, co-owners can organise and finance the Zagreb earthquake renovation process which refer to their properties themselves, and then demand a refund of the justifiably spent funds, which means that in this case the process may go much more quickly and smoothly, but Uhlir warned that they must pay attention to all of the documentation and that everything goes according to the rules and can be looked back at.

"Of course, the problem lies with the harmonisation of the the position of the co-owners, but it's possible to act legally if there's indeed a threat to life at play. A completely new law in building management is coming soon,'' said Uhlir, adding that the law was made according to the best experiences to date, but unfortunately we still don't have a single contract with a designer, let alone a contractor, ie there are a very limited number of people who understand this sort of construction and who have real life experience in it,'' he added.

The good news that the Secretary of State also put forward is that the deadlines for submitting applications have been moved to the period from 2021 to 2025 so that everyone will be able to submit them, but in conclusion it is worth emphasising his appeal to all not to attempt to fix any earthquake damage yourself, but be sure to contact authorised professionals for your own safety and for that of the buildings.

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Monday, 22 March 2021

Plenković: Government Taking Steps to Provide €3.8bn for Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - The government has taken steps to make sure that  €3.8 billion (HRK 28.5 billion) can be provided for reconstruction and revitalisation in the quake-affected areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underscored on Monday at the first Croatian conference on earthquake engineering - 1CroCEE.

The conference was organised by the  Faculty of Civil Engineering in Zagreb on the first anniversary of the 5.5-strong tremor that struck Zagreb and its environs on 22 March 2020.

Plenković recalled today the extent of the damage to Zagreb and its environs and then later to the Banovina region which was struck by the 6.2-strong quake on 29 December was truly enormous.

The damage is estimated at HRK 86 billion in Zagreb and its environs and HRK 41.6 billion in the Banovina area in Sisak-Moslavina County. The sum total of the quake damage is put thus at HRK 128 billion.

For that expensive and long process of the reconstruction to be implemented it is essential to secure the necessary funds, particularly from European and international sources, said Plenković.

The government has to date taken intensive activities at all levels for reconstruction and revitalisation of affected areas  so as to secure €3.8 billion or about HRK 28.5 billion, which is 22% of the funds required.

Of that amount, almost €1.4 billion is from European sources and €2.4 billion through international financing institutions.

The European funds include €684 million from the EU Solidarity Fund for Zagreb's reconstruction and almost €600 million is planned through the Recover and Resilience Mechanism, while €111 million will be reallocated from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme from the existing Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), he said.

In addition, we will endeavour to secure funds from the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework  which is currently being programmed and financing reconstruction will be treated as a specific item, said Plenković.

When it comes to international financing institutions, in addition to an already contracted loan of €184 million from the World Bank, talks will be conducted for an additional €1 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB), €900 million from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and €300 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

An additional €319.2 million needs to be added to all that which Croatia requested from the European Solidarity Fund for the removal of damage caused by the earthquake in the Banovina region, he added.

Plenković added that constant talks were being held with a series of development and commercial banks to come up with solutions that will provide credit lines with favourable interest rates for individuals. That primarily refers to the 20% of the costs they need to cover reconstruction, to finance the difference between structural repairs and complete reconstruction, to finance the reconstruction of apartment buildings and also to fund the reconstruction of public buildings by the state.

"We are about to enter the phase of organised structural repairs and comprehensive reconstruction, not just in Zagreb but in neighbouring counties," said Plenković.

He underscored that reconstruction should boost a new large development cycle for Zagreb and neighbouring counties as well as trigger the revitalising of the Banovina region.

World Bank director for Croatia and Slovenia, Elisabetta Capannelli, said that the estimated quake damage was equal to reached 30% of Croatia's GDP.

Monday, 22 March 2021

VIDEO: Zagreb Earthquake 2020, One Year Later

March 22, 2021- On the Zagreb Earthquake 2020 first anniversary, TCN reporters Ivor Kruljac and Jose Alfonso Kusijanović took to Zagreb's streets to see how locals feel one year later. 

6:24 AM March 22, 2020. It was Sunday, but sleep was as light as it was a workday full of obligations. Zagreb's citizens were awakened by a horrible sound followed by walls shaking, the ground trembling and things falling all over the place. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, at the very end of the first week of the first lockdown where it was advised to stay indoors to prevent the spread of the virus, there was no choice but to rush out of the house, discombobulated and without a clue of what exactly is the damage that 5.5 magnitude earthquake did. Individuals, couples, and entire families were outside but at a distance from one another, and just after the first aftershock, it started to snow. If you didn't leave the very center of Zagreb, the first sign of damage was the cathedral, whose top of the left tower collapsed, and only later you started to see the images of the center, which many compared online to Beirut. The Covid-19 National Response Team expressed its condolences on TV but warning everyone to keep the distance due to corona. Emergency services rushed to the city, later followed by the army. People who lost their homes were taken to student dorms and other locations with free space in the following days. Sadly, a 15-year-old-girl was fatally injured during the earthquake and passed away at Klaićeva's Children Hospital.

One year later, citizens of Zagreb still have mixed feelings about the event. Here are their answers in our short interview.

 

Shaking the memory

Senior citizen Ljerka was walking around European Square. Her home survived the quake, and the aftermath was books that fell from a shelf and broken bottles and jars in her pantry.  She learned about that damage after a few days when she returned home from her sister's because she was too scared to be alone. The memory of last year still gives her the chills. „I jumped out of bed and lost my head; you have no idea where to go. You don't know what to do. I quickly grabbed something, half-dressed, rushed to the street. People were standing outside confused who didn't know where to go or what to do, nothing“, she said. Describing herself as an optimistic person, the scary experience is still stuck with her even one year later. „You remember it from time to time, but you can't forget it," said Ljerka.

A young guy named Dejan Jakovljević was casually walking around a crowded Dolac market, carefully with a mask to respect the measures in the crowds. He handled the earthquake pretty well as he lives in a new building with lots of concrete and reinforcement. 

„It woke me up, but I knew it was an earthquake. It didn't scare me. I just waited for it to be over“, said Dejan. Responding to how he feels about it one year later, he briefly acknowledged that he „honestly forgot about it. “

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

The same can't be said for American-born Stefanie Mikac from New York. We met her while she was walking her dog in Zrinjevac park. Her home was badly damaged. „I was in the bathroom dancing left and right. I didn't think it was an earthquake, I thought 'what is it, the devil had come!’ and there was smoke“, remembered Stefanie. When she realized it was an earthquake, she hid under the door, and when it passed, she searched for her dog that hid in the apartment before finally escaping her flat. On her trip to Hawaii, where earthquakes are quite frequent, she accepted that there is not much you can do against mother nature. Despite her bad experience, a year later, she feels safe in Zagreb. „Very secure, safe. You know, you have to take things as they come, “ said Stephanie sharing her positive attitude.

We spotted Mira Francem walking on Jelačić square. Her house was built following all the construction demands and proved to be earthquake-proof. Still, the rocky feeling isn't something that she liked. „I personally felt terrible. I had a feeling the whole world was collapsing, and in the end, that feeling of losing the ground under my feet is an instinct, you know?”, said Mira adding that even though her house is fine, the trembling ground was awful. When asked if there is still anxiety over the last year's event, she resoundingly repeated, “yes.”

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

Mladen Habuš was standing on Vlaška street that connects European Square with Kaptol, where the City's cathedral is located.

“My home was okay. The earthquake surprised everyone at first, but fortunately, they don't last, so you stabilize psychologically”, said Mladen calmly, as if it didn’t really leave an impression on him.

“I already forgot about it because it's not as frequent as in Glina or Petrinja, whereas they say, it shakes every five minutes,” he emphasized, and that the key is to remain relaxed. 

December – another round, another rumble

The second earthquake with a 6.4 magnitude that hit Petrinja and ravaged Banovina / Banija didn't damage Zagreb as it did to the southern part of central Croatia. Still, it was certainly felt, and many agreed it was stronger than the one in March.

„Jesus Christ! That one was even worse!“said Ljerka the second I mentioned the Petrinja earthquake. She learned that Zagreb is situated in a seismic active area, and earthquakes are something people in Zagreb need to learn to live with, but March didn't make her welcome the December tremble with more ease. She ran out of the house, not knowing what when her niece, who also lives in Zagreb, called her.

„I asked her if there was another earthquake in Zagreb. I didn't get anything. She said, 'no, that's the aftermath of Petrinja.' We are really close to Petrinja“, said Ljerka.

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Nikola Cutuk / PIXSELL

Stephanie was walking her dog during the Petrinja earthquake. She witnessed bricks falling and was relieved nobody was passing underneath at the time. However, when she returned home, she entered the mess, and the damages that were still not fixed from March intensified. „All the cracks are wider now, and everything will need to be taken down to get to the healthy wall,” said Stephanie.

When asked if the December quake was easier or the same to handle for her, she laughed, acknowledging that it was actually worse.  “We repeated the reactions from the first earthquake, you know? It's a very unpleasant feeling even today when a tram passes or something buzzes. I think something is trembling, and we are quite tense”, shared Mira. She said that no matter how rational you are, consequences as emotions are different from rationale.  “I'm really sorry for those people. My house isn't damaged, but I was scared and lost, and I can only imagine how those people felt. It's a huge catastrophe on which we cannot influence,” said Mira with empathy.

Dejan felt the December quake was stronger but feeling safe in his building; he wasn't too worried. “I instinctively rushed to save the TV. Everything else was irrelevant”, recalled Dejan with gentle laughter underneath his mask.

Despite Mladen being relaxed after Petrinja, anxiety crept up on him too. “You start listening; someone starts a car, you raise your head to see what's going on. You are expecting another earthquake”, said Mladen. Still, he added that “you get used to it.”  

 

Insurance vs. safe building

As revealed earlier this year, 85% of Croatian households don't have earthquake insurance.

Dejan doesn't know if the building had insurance but given his building proved safe, he didn't seem too concerned with that question.

Mira also didn't have insurance, but her investment in the safe building certainly paid off.

Stephanie's home was badly damaged, but she pays 1200 kuna annually for insurance and says it isn't too expensive in Croatia. However, regarding the walls in her home that need to be fixed, there was a bit of an issue. „The insurance company actually secured only the furniture, but then through a lawyer, we made a deal to cover half of it. Something is better than nothing“, said Stephanie.

Ljerka complemented her landlord and how she manages things. Her building received a green sticker but chimneys needed to be removed. Insurance helped there a lot. „We took down the chimney ourselves, and we got the money back, I think 3000 kuna, “ said Ljerka. The roof was renewed a year or two ago, but the same couldn't be said about the terrace residents have in the back of the building. Insurance didn't want to cover it, and a loan was needed to be taken for the fixture.

City officials to the rescue! Or not?

Both the country and international community, not to mention companies and individuals, rushed to help Zagreb, and the now-deceased mayor Milan Bandić found himself challenged to return Zagreb to its old glory and shine as fast as possible. The situation even called for a Zagreb reconstruction bill on the parliament level as the government took the lead in rebuilding the city. In the meantime, Bandić passed away, and with local elections coming up, the city's repair remains a topic for all the candidates that hope to take the lead chair of city politics in May.

Regarding the response of the city officials, Ljerka isn't happy.

„What did the city do? Nothing. It was all ruins. Look at what Zagreb looks like now after the earthquake. How long has passed, and nothing is done. Nothing. Only the houses that people renovated themselves, but the city gave nothing”, commented Ljerka. She did, however, add that the city doesn’t have money and that she understands that.

Mira shares Ljerka's opinion that the situation is better for those who organized repairs privately. Still, when it comes to the city authority response, she says, „it should have gone faster, better, and more organized. “

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

„I see a lot of my friends who live in the center. It's all at a standstill. For those who engaged themselves privately, it is better, but otherwise, it is prolonged. It needs to be better, more active, more engaged to ease the people and make them stronger."

Dejan also thinks that the authorities' response was not good and that “they should help people.“

When asked to comment on the city's response to the earthquake damage, Stephanie was hesitant at first. She feared many people would disagree with her opinion and her different way of thinking because she lived in the US.

“Over there, we have asbestos insurance and insurance for everything. If you have a bank loan and the bank has input on the house, you have to have insurance”, explained Stephanie asking me if it is fair for her to pay the insurance while others don’t and later demand the city to pay for everything. “Imagine if the city would fix apartments for everyone and secure the buildings. Nobody would ever do that anywhere. They may give you a percentage, but that's it,” concludes Stephanie.  

Mladen is happy with the city's response.

“I think the city, to my knowledge and how much I followed, was the only one that jumped to help those who lost their homes and put them in free spaces,” Mladen pointed out. He also reminds us that the government took over the rebuild and the city is involved with 20%. When asked if it’s good for Zagreb that the government took the lead over the city, a resounding yes was the final answer. “The city doesn't have enough money, so the government needs to jump in," concluded Mladen.  

Steady ground wishes above all

Being the biggest and the capital city of Croatia, which attracts people from everywhere in the country and beyond, Zagreb streets offered truly diverse answers to Jose and me. There was more or less fright on March 22, 2020, and different levels of anxiety today. Different views on insurance and the city’s response. We can only guess how differently they will vote in May. But one wish is the constant for the Purger's hearth - the wish to see Zagreb as a safe city where you only get awakened by an alarm clock.   

 For more about the earthquake in Zagreb, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Zagreb Reconstruction to Include Green Parks, New Car Garages and More?

February the 15th, 2021 - Is the new Zagreb reconstruction process set to include far more and be much greener than we could have imagined when the earthquake struck the capital in March last year?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, green development is on the way as the desire to create a proper framework for a green Zagreb reconstruction and thus a real basis for more green development aimed at the reconstruction and decarbonisation of the construction fund. All of the anove was promisingly announced by Ivica Rovis from the Institute for Physical Planning of the City of Zagreb. The institute is otherwise leading the development of a pilot project called Blok_19, which Mayor Milan Bandic should present on the anniversary of the March earthquake in Zagreb this year.

The pilot project regards a block of buildings bordering the city streets of Dalmatinska, Frankopanska, Ilica and Meduliceva, and the powers that be in the city in close cooperation with experts involved in the so-called Council for the Coordination of Activities Related to the Development of the Complete Reconstruction Programme of Zagreb's Historic Centre have been working on it for almost a year now.

The council has a president, a vice president and as many as 22 experts. The idea was to analyse all of Zagreb's blocks in this way, but considering that Block 19 has been being analysed for a year now, the question is when anything would be actually end up being restored if the entire city was taken into consideration in the same manner. In general, Block 19 should be a concretisation of the solution planned for the Gornji and Donji Grad as well as Kaptol.

The traffic study for this Zagreb reconstrution project with a primary focus on being green, as has since been found out, was made for the three previously mentioned locations, and it envisages the construction of a larger number of garages for the local population, the abolition of parking on the streets and the removal of cars from the centre.

''We'd move much more towards the opening of city blocks, which would allow pedestrians to move faster, and a larger number of bike paths would be created. Namely, after the earthquake, the government offered the citizens of Zagreb money to buy water heaters and pay for any emergency repairs, as well as a legal framework for the co-financing of any constructive Zagreb reconstruction, and the City of Zagreb has additional plans on top of that, too.

A Dalmatian-style park would make Zagreb become even greener, maybe another passage would open, two garages would find their place underground, the city's facades would become photosensitive, the buildings would be made resistant to destructive earthquakes and fully energetically renovated, traffic would be adapted and decarbonised,'' recounts Jutarnji list briefly when relaying the vision of Block 19 from one of the council members who wished to remain anonymous.

Most members of the Council don't yet want to speak publicly about what they have come up with for the green Zagreb reconstruction project because the whole thing is being kept in strict secrecy until the presentation.

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